My first real exposure to Seagram’s Crown Royal came in 1981, when I was informed that a bottle of this precious commodity would be the appropriate compensation to Father Lehman for officiating at our wedding in Bemidji, Minnesota. A few years later, when I was living in California and working in the wine and spirits business, we conducted a blind taste test in which Crown Royal was determined to be the smoothest of all the premium spirits in the market. Since then, “Crown Royal on the Rocks” has always been my brown spirit of choice. I love the flavor, and on top of that, I’ve always been a big fan of their packaging, particularly their distinctive label, bottle shape and “purple marble bag.”
You can imagine how flabbergasted I was last night when I saw a curiously low-brow Crown Royal TV commercial featuring a young man playing pool, first with his buddies and then with his father. The tagline of the commercial, which has apparently been on the air for at least six months, makes great sense: “For every king, a mentor. For every king, a crown. Crown Royal.” What I object to–from a strategic marketing standpoint–is the pool theme. I know the economy is tough, but if Crown Royal wants to associate itself with a sport, it should be golf or sailing. A pool-themed ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon or Gordon’s Gin would probably work, but for Crown Royal it’s a total miscue.
What’s worse–and I know this is going to sound obnoxious–the father comes across as, well, a guy who hangs around pool halls. He might be a fun guy, but with his low-rent attire and greasy hair, he’s hardly the kind of guy you’d expect to be drinking Crown Royal. And I doubt that he’s the kind of guy that many viewers–at least the ones who can afford Crown Royal–will want to emulate.
I can only assume that the target of the campaign is people who aren’t drinking Crown Royal now. But since these people are presumably less well-to-do than current Crown Royal consumers, the state of the economy means that stepping up to Crown Royal is less affordable than ever for this target. As a result, I’d be shocked if this campaign has attracted many new users, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s turned off more than a few long-time loyal customers.
A tagline referencing the word “king”–twice, no less–is a smart way to reinforce Crown Royal’s brand equity. But associating the brand with the sport of pool was a king-sized mistake.